The Constitutions and Other Select Documents Illustrative of the History of France 1789-1907

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Date: June 21, 1791

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World History

Documents Upon the King’s Flight.

REFERENCES. Stephens, French Revolution, I, Ch. xv; Cambridge Modern History, VIII, 198–201; Aulard, Révolution française, Part I, Ch. v.

A. The King’s Declaration.

June 20, 1791. Procèsverbal de l’Assemblée Nationale, June 21, 1791, I suite, 5–23.

As long as the king could hope to see order and the welfare of the kingdom rise again through the means employed by the National Assembly, and by his residence near that assembly in the capital of the kingdom, no personal sacrifice was too expensive; he would not even have asserted the nullity with which all proceedings since the month of October, 1789, are involved, owing to his complete lack of liberty, if that hope had been fulfilled; but today when the only recompense for so many sacrifices is to see the destruction of the monarchy, all authority held in contempt, property violated, the security of person everywhere placed in danger, crimes remaining unpunished, and a complete anarchy established above the laws, without even the prospect that the authority which the new constitution gives him will be sufficient to repair even one of the evils which afflict the kingdom; the king, after having solemnly protested against all the acts emanating from him during his captivity, believes that he ought to put before the eyes of the French and all the world a picture of his conduct and that of the government which is established in the kingdom.

. . . [In the omitted passage the king reviews the events of July and October, 1789, and complains of the condition of the Tuileries and of the replacement of his old body guard by a detachment of the Parisian national guards, declaring that he was thereby virtually made a prisoner.]

But the more the king made sacrifices for the welfare of his people, the more the factious labored to depreciate the value thereof, and to represent the monarchy under the most false and odious colors.

The calling of the States-General, the doubling of the deputies of Third Estate, the efforts which the king made to clear up the difficulties which might delay the meeting of the States-General, and those which arose after its opening, all the retrenchments which the king made in his personal expenditure, all the sacrifices which he made for his people in the session of June 23, finally the union of the orders, brought about by the expression of the king’s desire, a measure which His Majesty then judged indispensable for the inauguration of the States-General: all his anxiety, all his efforts, all his generosity, all his devotion to his people, all have been disparaged, all have been misconstrued.

The time when the States-General, assuming the name of the National Assembly, began to busy itself with the constitution of the kingdom, calls to mind the memoirs which the factious were cunning enough to cause to be sent from several provinces and the movements of Paris to cause the deputies to disregard one of the principal clauses contained in all their cahiers, which provided that the making of the laws should be done in concert with the king. In defiance of that clause, the assembly put the king entirely outside the constitution, in refusing to him the right to grant or to withhold his sanction to the articles which it regarded as constitutional, while reserving to itself the right to reckon in that class those which it thought belonged there, and by restraining for those regarded as purely legislative the royal prerogative to a right of suspension until the third legislature; a purely illusory right, as so many examples prove only too fully.

What remains to the king, beyond the vain similitude of royal power? . . .

Let the different parts of the government be examined in turn.

Justice. The king has no share in the making of the laws; he has only the right to put a stop to those whose purpose is not regarded as constitutional until the third legislature, and that of praying the National Assembly to busy itself with such and such matters, without having the right to make a formal proposition thereon. Justice is rendered in the name of the king, . . . but it is only a matter of form, . . . One of the latest decrees of the assembly has deprived the king of one of the fairest prerogatives everywhere attached to royal power, that of pardoning and commuting penalties. . . . How much, moreover, that diminishes the royal majesty in the eyes of the people so long accustomed to have recourse to the king in their needs and in their difficulties, and to see in him the common father who can relieve their afflictions!

Internal administration. It is entirely in the hands of the departments, districts, and municipalities, too many authorities, who clog the movement of the machine and often thwart each other. All these bodies are elected by the people, and have no relations with the government, according to the decrees, except for their execution and for those special orders which are issued in consequence thereof. . . .

Finances. The king had declared, even before the meeting of the States-General, that he recognized in the assemblies of the nation the right to grant subsidies, and that he no longer desired to tax the people without their consent. All the cahiers of the deputies to the States-General were agreed in placing the reestablishment of the finances in the first rank among the matters with which that assembly must busy itself; some imposed restrictions in favor of articles to be previously acted upon. The king removed the difficulties which these restrictions might have occasioned by going forward himself and granting, in the session of June 23, everything which had been desired. . . .

This form of government, so vicious in itself, becomes still more so for these reasons. 1st. The assembly, by means of its committees, constantly exceeds the limits which it prescribes for itself; it busies itself with matters which deal only with the internal administration of the kingdom, and with that of justice, and thus gathers up all authority; it also exercises, through its investigating committee, a veritable despotism, more barbarous and insufferable than any of those of which history has ever made mention. 2d. There are established in almost all of the cities, and even in many towns and villages, associations known under the name of Friends of the Constitution: contrary to the tenor of the decrees, they do not suffer any others to exist which are not affiliated with them; thus they form an immense corporation, more dangerous than any of those which formerly existed. Without being authorised thereto, but even in defiance of the decrees, they deliberate upon all questions of government, correspond among themselves upon all matters, make and receive complaints, post decrees, and have acquired such a preponderance that all the administrative and judicial bodies, not even excepting the National Assembly itself, almost always obey their orders.

The king does not think that it would be possible to govern a kingdom of so great extent and importance as France through the means established by the National Assembly, as they exist at present. His Majesty, in granting to all the decrees without distinction the sanction, which he well knew could not be refused, was induced thereto by the desire to avoid all discussion, which experience had shown to be at least useless; he feared, moreover, that it would be thought he desired to retard or to bring about the failure of the labors of the National Assembly, to whose success the nation attached so great an interest; he put his confidence in the wise men of that assembly. . . .

But the nearer we see the assembly approach the end of its labors, the more we see the wise men lose their credit, the more we see increased measures which make difficult or even impossible the carrying on of the government and create for it lack of confidence and disfavor; other regulations, instead of applying balm to the wounds which still bleed in many provinces only increase the uneasiness and provoke discontent. The spirit of the clubs dominates and invades everything; thousands of calumniating and incendiary newspapers and pamphlets, which increase daily, are only their echoes and prepare men to become what they wish them to be. The National Assembly has never dared to remedy that license, so far removed from true liberty; it has lost its credit, and even the force of which it would have need in order to turn upon its steps and to change that which would seem to it well to correct. We see by the spirit which reigns in the clubs, and the manner in which they make themselves masters of the new primary assemblies, what must be expected from them; and if they allow to become perceptible any inclinations to turn back upon any matter, it is in order to destroy the remainder of the monarchy and establish a metaphysical and philosophic government impossible to put into operation.

Frenchmen, is that what you intended in sending your representatives to the National Assembly? do you desire that the anarchy and despotism of the clubs should replace the monarchical government under which the nation has prospered for fourteen hundred years? do you desire to see your king covered with injuries, and deprived of his liberty, while he is occupied only with the establishment of yours?

Love for their kings is one of the virtues of the French, and His Majesty has received personally too many proofs thereof to be able ever to forget them. The factious know well that as long as this love abides, their work can never achieve success; they know, likewise, that in order to enfeeble that it is necessary, if it be possible, to destroy the respect which has always accompanied it; and that is the source of the outrages which the king has received during the past two years, and of all the evils which he has suffered. His Majesty would not trace here the distressing picture of them, if he did not desire to make known to his faithful subjects the spirit of these factions who rend the bosom of the fatherland, while feigning to wish its regeneration. . . .

In view of all these reasons and the impossibility for the king, from the position in which he is placed, effecting the good and preventing the evil which is perpetrated, is it astonishing that the king has sought to recover his liberty and to put himself and his family in safety?

Frenchmen, and especially Parisians, you inhabitants of a city which the ancestors of His Majesty were pleased to call the good city of Paris, distrust the suggestions and lies of your false friends; return to your king; he will always be your father, your best friend: what pleasure will he not take in forgetting all his personal injuries, and in beholding himself again in the midst of you, when a constitution, which he shall have freely accepted, shall cause your religion to be respected, the government to be established upon a firm footing and made useful by its operation, the property and status of each person no longer disturbed, the laws no longer violated with impunity, and, finally, liberty founded upon firm and immovable foundations.

Signed,

LOUIS.

Paris, June 20 1791.

The king forbids his ministers signing any order in his name, until they receive further orders; he commands the keeper of the seal of the state to send it to him, as soon as may be required on his part.

Signed,

LOUIS.

Paris, June 20, 1791.

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Chicago: "A. The King’s Declaration.," The Constitutions and Other Select Documents Illustrative of the History of France 1789-1907 in The Constitutions and Other Select Documents Illustrative of the History of France 1789-1907, ed. Frank Maloy Anderson (New York: Russell Russell, 1908), 45–50. Original Sources, accessed July 6, 2022, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1MTZMUAI7LKC2TS.

MLA: . "A. The King’s Declaration." The Constitutions and Other Select Documents Illustrative of the History of France 1789-1907, Vol. I, in The Constitutions and Other Select Documents Illustrative of the History of France 1789-1907, edited by Frank Maloy Anderson, New York, Russell Russell, 1908, pp. 45–50. Original Sources. 6 Jul. 2022. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1MTZMUAI7LKC2TS.

Harvard: , 'A. The King’s Declaration.' in The Constitutions and Other Select Documents Illustrative of the History of France 1789-1907. cited in 1908, The Constitutions and Other Select Documents Illustrative of the History of France 1789-1907, ed. , Russell Russell, New York, pp.45–50. Original Sources, retrieved 6 July 2022, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=1MTZMUAI7LKC2TS.